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Finnish gas station cooperative SEO takes a leap in its digitalization with Etteplan

SEO is a wholly Finnish oil company that is controlled by its merchants. The SEO network includes more than 220 distribution stations, service stations or unmanned filling stations. SEO merchants independently decide on their station’s services, as well as on their fuel distribution and pricing solutions. This forms the basis for the SEO network’s independent and autonomous nature. The merchants of SEO’s service station network serve customers around Finland, from the shores of the Gulf of Finland all the way to Nuorgam, Lapland.

SEO, a Finnish nation-wide gas station cooperative, partnered with Etteplan to upgrade its digital environment significantly. The renewal project will result in better services both internally and for customers, improved profitability and sustainability, and helped the cooperative to catch up with big competitors.

Founded in 1978, the Finnish Energy Cooperative SEO is a gas station chain 100% owned by independent merchants with 236 stations all around Finland. The chain also operates about 60 unmanned cold stations.

“SEO cherishes the freedom of the entrepreneurs, and we have no strict chain management. None of the merchant-operated stations are the same,” says Johanna Silén, who manages SEO’s business development, and marketing and communications.

The chain provides merchants with relevant IT services, customer payment solutions, and applications. It is also responsible for the sale of fuel oil and the SEO business credit card for customers.

In early 2022, SEO realized that the existing company card IT environment had reached the end of its lifecycle. To kick off the upgrade, the cooperative partnered with Etteplan which had built the existing systems and impressed in recent projects. First, Etteplan performed a strategic level audit of the current IT architecture. Next, a long-term roadmap was drawn together over the future architecture with a list of concrete projects that needed to be done.

“Most urgent was to renew our business credit card system and to improve our mobile application. Now, we will have online verification in the credit card which reduces the risk of credit loss to a minimum. The system checks automatically that the customer has sufficient funds available for refueling,” Silén tells. She has been the project manager on SEO’s side.

The mobile application already existed and its was originally created with Etteplan. Its new features bring plenty of new possibilities such as a virtual credit card for business customers. Earlier it was only available to consumers enabling mobile refueling. The virtual card includes digital receipts that a business customer can forward directly to their accountant, which removes the hassle over printed receipts.

“The app gives us better tools to engage with existing customers and to acquire new customers. The chain can create special discounts and campaigns, and merchants can do the same locally through the system. The application and the good usability of the system enables internal agility, frees up resources for other tasks and makes everyday life easier for the chain, merchants, and customers.”

Johanna Silén

Manager, SEO’s business development, marketing and communications

Besides, the new virtual business card option in mobile application improves SEO’s corporate responsibility.

“Every plastic card left unprinted is a good deed for the environment. It's great to be able to offer a more ecological solution, which is also more convenient since you don't need to keep dozens of cards in your wallet. Of course, we also provide physical cards for everyone who prefers them,” Silén says.

Availability of all new solutions at gas stations will expand gradually depending on updates by fuel dispenser manufacturers. SEO estimates that everything will be implemented by the end of 2023.

Outsourcing technological leadership service to Etteplan has helped SEO to confirm that it is proceeding on the right track with its digital ambitions.

“We are a relatively small operator and come a long way back whereas Etteplan is a top player in IT solutions for the fuel market sector. Together we can catch up and offer services that we need for our merchants and customers alike. We have been very satisfied working with Etteplan that has brought highly valuable expertise to our projects. Their experts have answered quickly to all our questions."

Johanna Silén

Manager, SEO’s business development, marketing and communications

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